For a lucky few, your chosen career path is clear: you wish to be a doctor and you need to go to Uni, plain and simple. For others – probably the majority of students, the next few years are a blank canvas, and you are left wondering whether investing three or four years is University is likely to pay the dividends you are looking for.
Before you make the decision, you should take time to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of going to University. This blog post sets out to give you some of the questions you should be asking yourself.
– The chance to specialise: If you have a passionate love for history, you dream of a career as a barrister or you are a budding Stephen Hawking, University is an ideal place to encounter great thinkers. If you are lucky enough to encounter lecturer and tutors who are as passionate about your field as you are, it can be intensely rewarding. Your Professors will accompany you along the most important areas of your subject provide important reading lists and keep you abreast of new developments in your chosen subject. It is no wonder that most graduates look back on their University days as the most mentally stimulating of their life.
– University is a good investment: Despite the high fees many Universities in the UK can charge (currently £9,000), a tertiary education continues to pay dividends. The Office for National Statistics indicates that graduates are more likely to be employed than those with a lower-standard education. Indeed, non-graduates aged 21 to 30 have consistently higher unemployment rates.
Graduates also have the lion’s share of skilled jobs and the choice of University is relevant as well: graduates from top Universities earn higher salaries than those from other institutions. You should be aware that the rewards for study are likely to come later: on average, graduates aged 21 earn a lower gross annual wage than students who opt for an apprenticeship. This is owing to the fact that new University graduates will have just entered the labour market or may take time to find a job in their chosen field.
It all levels out in time, though: those with apprenticeships earn less than graduates from age 25 onwards. According to Labour Force Survey figures, over a 40-year working lifetime, a graduate will earn £415,320 more than those who have not studied for a degree. Net lifecycle earnings are increased by 28 per cent for male graduates, and by 53 per cent for female graduates.
– Meet new people: If you have been at the same secondary school for the past seven years, chances are, you are used to moving in the same social circle. University offers the chance to encounter people of all ages and from different backgrounds, which can broaden your horizons and enlighten you on different habits, customs and ways of thinking. University offers the unique opportunity to meet people from other countries and to immerse yourself in their culture and traditions.
– University can teach you about entrepreneurship: The QAA report, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers , highlights the important role good Universities can play, not just in creating experts in specialist fields, but also in instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in students. After all, if you have invested a great deal of time and money in your education, you should develop the skills you need to make the most of your degree, by being aware of your capacity to manage and exploit your intellectual assets, or even consider self-employment or the establishment of a start-up business!
– The value of independence: University can boost your confidence in your own abilities, especially if you opt for an institution which is far from your hometown. Tasks that may seem arduous (doing your own cooking, ironing, shopping) are actually great teachers of skills like time management and budgeting. Moving away from home for the first time also teaches you to establish your own limits (curfews, visits which are or aren’t allowed to your home, etc.). Being independent likewise encourages you to be responsible with your freedom.
– Finding new interests: University offers such a wide range of activities, opportunities and incentives that you will be hard pressed to keep your choice of extra-curricular activities to a minimum. Hone your skills in writing by joining the editorial staff of the student newspaper or sign up for a film club or equal opportunities group. University is as much about discovering yourself and others, as it is about obtaining a degree; make the most of this unique opportunity and aim to have fun while you learn.
– A positive outlook: It seems that opting for a University education has positive effects on one’s mental and physical wellbeing. A study commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has found that graduates are les likely to suffer from depression, obesity or an addiction to smoking. They are also more likely to vote, help their children in the pursuit of an education and enjoy a higher sense of wellbeing.
Interestingly, a study carried out in the USA has found that graduates with a bachelor’s degree have a life expectancy of almost nine years longer than those who have not obtained a high school diploma. Graduates also tend to be more integrated into their respective communities, becoming involved in volunteering and other pursuits, which are beneficial to the community at large.
– Irrelevance to your future career: If your chosen job does not require University training, then a find a three- or four-year stint in University may be a waste of time.
– The Expense: The thought of graduating with a student debt of £27,000 can discourage many students from pursuing a tertiary education. Indeed, BBC news recently reported that the rise in fees had led to a 17 per cent drop in UK undergraduates. The case is especially grim for part-time students, who are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds to begin with, and who may find the fees simply too high to afford.
I hope that you have found this blog post useful, and possibly provided some food for thought in your decision whether to go to University.